Names from the Princes Hill School Roll of Honour who were killed on Anzac Day 1915 at Gallipoli
Norman Edward ABERDEEN (Military Medal + Bar) engineer KIA 25/4/1915 Gallipoli
Joseph Rupert BALFE medical student KIA 25/4/1915 Gallipoli
James Prentice CORMACK public servant Wounded 25/4/1915 Gallipoli Died 14/6/1915 Alexandria
John Rossiter MELVILLE painter KIA 25/4/1915 Gallipoli
Alfred McCOLL draftsman Missing 25/4/1915 Gallipoli
The first day
Norman Edward Aberdeen in cadets uniform
Norman Aberdeen was keen. After all, he’d served three years in the senior cadets. When War broke out and recruits were called for to fight for King and Country the nineteen year old apprentice engineer from Station Street, North Carlton was quick to make it to the drill hall and sign up. His regimental number, 75, proves he was one of the early arrivals. He was one of many Princes Hill State School ex-students to “answer the call” promptly. Norman enlisted in the 7th Battalion on the 17th August 1914. On the 18th he was passed medically fit and by the 10th of September he was appointed acting Lance Corporal. Two months later he and his Battalion sailed for Europe on the “Hororata”. The training in Australia was supplemented by further training in Egypt while plans were drawn up for the Dardanelles campaign.
Tragically his war was a short one. Norman Aberdeen was killed on the first day of the landing at Anzac Cove, 25th April 1914. One hundred years ago on Saturday.
Where he fell is not known. He was listed as missing. He may have been blown apart by an artillery shell or his body may have been washed away into the sea. But in the confusion of that awful initial assault, nobody, it seems, recorded what became of him. Sadly for his mother and father in North Carlton he was listed as “missing” until in May 1916 a Court of Enquiry convened “In the Field” in France determined that he had been “killed in action”. A letter was sent to his parents. Any hopes they may have clung to must have died with this news.
The next year his “effects”, a small parcel of his possessions, was returned to his family. Imagine how they must have felt as they unpacked these items, last touched by Norman more than two years before:
“3 sketch books, 4 military books, comb, 1 pair gloves, 2 pair cork soles, 3 pair mittens, 9 handkerchiefs, chain, whistle, 5 keys, purse, cards, small note book, negatives, letters.”
Fifty years later, in 1967, the pain of the family grief and their frustration at knowing so little was still evident in these lines written by Norman’s brother, addressed to the officer in charge of army records (sic):
I wish to apply for the New Anzac medal of my only Brother whose parents have passed on. My Brother’s name was L Cpl. NORMAN EDWARD ABERDEEN 7 BN. A.I.F. His regimental number I think was 75 he was reported missing on the day of the landing at Gallipoli + to this day nothing has been heard of him. If I remember rightly he enlisted the first day volunteers was called for. Thanking you
B. L. Aberdeen, Warragul
(Joseph) Rupert Balfe (b 9 March 1890), the youngest of three boys, attended Princes Hill State School and later attended Melbourne University to study medicine. During his years there he played for the University VFL Football Club. Rupert was quick to enlist and joined the 6th Battalion, one of the first units raised, and became a second lieutenant in the 2nd Brigade.
11 September 1914 - Balfe front and centre in Melbourne University Regiment cap & badge shortly after enlisting in Melbourne
His father was the mayor of Brunswick at the time, and became involved in patriotic causes. His mother also later became president of Brunswick's chapter of the Red Cross Society to help provide for the needs of wounded soldiers. Balfe left Australia for Egypt onboard the Hororato on 19 October 1914, and after several months training was sent into action.
Lieutenant Balfe standing at rear right
He died on the infamous ANZAC Day at Gallipoli, Turkey, at the age of 25. After going ashore as part of the second wave, according to a report by one of his commanding officers, Balfe was killed instantly by a bursting shell just after reaching the beach. One of his corporals reported: “He was leading, and very keen. Two of his party came back and said he was killed, but could not bring his body back. We had to retire that evening.” His was one of six VFL(AFL) footballers killed that day and his name appears on the Princes Hill Roll of Honor below the stairs on the ground floor. Balfe had a strong friendship with Robert Menzies, who was also studying at Melbourne University. Menzies went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia from 1939–1941, 1949–1966. Menzies wrote a poem for the late Balfe which appeared in several newspapers on 16 July 1915. "In Memoriam Lieut. J.R. Balfe, Killed in Action, Gallipoli, July 1915:
His was the call that came from far away –
An Empire's message flashing o'er the sea –
The call to arms! The blood of chivalry
Pulsed quicker in his veins; he could not stay!
Let others wait; for him the glorious day
Of tyrants humbled and a world set free
Had dawned in clouds and thunder; with a glee
Born not of insensate madness for the fray,
But rather of a spirit noble, brave,
And kindled by a heart that wept at wrong,
He went. The storms of battle round him rave
And screaming fury o'er him chants its song,
Sleep, gallant soul! Though gone thy living breath,
Thou liv'st for aye, for thou has conquered death!"
Training in Egypt, Rupert Balfe is standing in the front row closest to camera